NPC Aaron goes solo… and gets a win!

Fans of the NPCCast podcast would have noticed a drop in the number of hosts. The several regulars missing, @npcaaron was faced with skipping an episode, or going it alone. To his credit, he put together a great podcast and was able to single handedly cover all the angles of ‘Big Picture’ plot design. Well done, sir, and big ups on your first solo flight : )

So if you are looking for some succinct, expert advice on how best to construct the meta-plot/story-arc/big picture for any game, give this historic Podcast a listen at: https://npccast.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/the-big-picture-in-rpgs/

Capture

Ah, just kick a goal will you!!!

Another great weekend coming up… another chance to have my hopes crushed by my favourite sports team!
BusquetsThis is what it feels like to support the Western Sydney Wanderers FC.

RPGs and game psychology are not the only things that weigh on my mind! For about 4 years I have been a fan of the Western Sydney Wanderers, a relatively new team to the Australian A-League.

Now, I don’t live in Western Sydney, but when I became re-interested in football (and signed up to play for the first time since I was a kid) I looked around my home city for the options, and there was a clear choice for me. There is nothing wrong with Sydney FC (besides their fans ; ) but when the Wanderers kicked off they deliberately tried to re-introduce the more ‘tribal’ culture that had (necessarily at the time) departed from football in this country.

The ‘Red-and-Black-Blok’ as they are called have a deserved reputation as the most passionate fan base in the country; in fact their aim is the be the most passionate supporter group in the world! A lofty goal, and what makes it heaps of fun to go to a home game!

Also, because the Wanderers started as financially smaller that Sydney FC, and they started with a smaller home ground. The Wanderers stadium only holds about 25,000, compared to Sydney’s stadium which holds over 100,000. The difference is what I love – Wanderers games are up-close and personal. Pirtek stadium was designed for NRL (dont bother googling it!) so the seats are right along the boundary line, and you will never get a seat that is too far back. Also, they do NOT serve alcohol, and as a dad with kids who like to see the games this is a BIG plus in my books!

For years the Wanderers played ‘fightball’ – what we in Australia degradingly call the very physical, low in technique, high on endurance style of playing. That did serve them well for a few years, and added to the passion of the crowd when they did well, but in recent years the A-League teams that have switched to a Spanish-style of possession based football have started to dominate (as they have all over the world). So, after a cellar-dwelling season last year, the Wanderers have switched up their game and playing style too!

However, this has come at a huge cost in terms of familiar faces – there are only two starting players (two!) who were in the team last year. Kind of leaves me wondering who I am cheering for… the players? The team? The club? My kids and the other supporters? The sport itself?

Of course that would all disappear if/when the team starts scoring goals, and we start hearing the names of the play-makers being mentioned. But, two games into the new season, it hasn’t happened yet.

Which brings me to the conundrum of this coming weekend’s local derby against Sydney FC. I guess the only thing I can say at the moment is ‘Come on…. Team? Wanderers? Ah, just kick a goal will you!!!’

High Space launches DEV CHAT

Hey all you sci-fi gamers! High Space, for Savage Worlds, launched a new ‘development chat’ community today.

HighSpace upgrading social media DEV CHAT

This public/open community, on Google Plus, was created specifically for fans of the titles to share and catch up on the latest news.

Among the first posts is a graphic from the High Space Astronomical Survey, and you can see where the votes are heading on what to our supporters want us to deliver in the campaign to ‘uplift’ High Space. We also offer some concept art and ask which you prefer.

Hope you can make it !

DMB v. Villainous psychology

Just listening to the Dungeon Masters Block podcast by @DMs_Block, episode number 16 titled ‘Good, Bad, Unkillable Villain‘.

It’s well delivered and fun to listen to (yes, even the anecdotes, surprisingly!) which I think reflects the podcast’s sense of humour.

This podcast focuses on villains, and I will use it as a segue to expand on the ‘psychology of villains’.

I just can’t wait to be King!

First of all, it’s only in movies and games where a villain will actually think of themselves as a ‘watch the world burn’ kind of baddie. In real life everyone thinks they are the good guy. So let’s talk about fictional villains…

A lot of the aforementioned podcast discussed the personality and the motivations of the villain, and I reckon I can sum this up in one line… ‘Great villains are great characters.’ There is nothing that does not make your PC a great character, that will not also make a villain a great character.

Of course to move from being a ‘good’ character, to a ‘bad’ character, a villain also has to act in specific ways. But even more importantly, a villain literally has to be marketed to the players (not characters) and the best and surest way to do that is by creating an emotional tie with the player. Trusted techniques include:

  • Betrayal, because nothing hurts more, and hell hath no fury
  • Victimisation, nothing should gets us more angry that seeing people bullied/oppressed
  • Dismissal, an interesting villainous virtue because it directly attacks the ego
  • Hypocrisy, because double standards directly insult our intelligence
  • and lastly being actually Threatening, because it adds suspense and none of the above matters much if the villain can’t follow through on any of it!

The podcast also briefly touched the concept of ‘knowledge as the ultimate villain’, and I want to expand on that. The root of this idea is that ‘ideas have a life of their own’.

As proof of how this is done really well in fiction take a look at the Conan books. A major villain is the cult of Set. You could argue that the villain is the actual god, but in practise no particular individual has to show up for the cult to evoke a great emotional reaction.

Stepping away from fantasy for a moment, consider the recently created I.S.I.S. Seriously, I reckon that only a handful of people in the world know the names/faces of the ‘leaders’ (if it has any) but it is undoubtedly a modern ‘super villain’ at least to half the world!

Back to the game… how do you play against an Idea? In the Conan style of games the Idea is a foil. In modern games the Idea is an insidious force. Ultimately you face down an Idea by facing down it’s supporters. In fact, the personality of the villain should be accurately reflected through it’s minions. The podcast cites Star Wars ‘Stormtroopers’ as an iconic example.

Uniqueness should also be a trait of the villain themselves. Take a look at The Hobbit movies, and you will quickly notice that the director tried his hardest to distinguished the two leading Orc villains (who are in a way also minions) as unique from all other Orcs, both in brutishness and in simple appearance.

Tracking all this back to designing a villain for a game, can I suggest that you don’t start by trying to design a great villain. Design a great, unqiue, emotive, even complex character or idea first!

Finally, many thanks to the good people at DMB for sharing a thought-provoking podcast full of ideas; that’s the best kind of podcast there is : )

It’s not often…

It’s not often that other people’s gaming anecdotes inspire me to tell others about them, but this week’s PlayOnTarget podcast, called Last Fleet Campaign Post Mortem did just that. The GM also wrote about his campaign at Age of Ravens (although I haven’t read the blog, but I will!)

It’s an inspiring story of how to do collaborative design, player buy-in, and home brew card based mechanics, with a unique take on a setting and characterisation!

Well worth a listen 🙂

High Space launches an “Astronomical Survey”

High Space: Upgrading...

*Spoiler: This is an unrepentant plug for my tabletop rpg High Space, for Savage Worlds, which is being rebooted.*

It was aeons ago, three years in fact, when we first launched High Space… and since then we’ve delivered 9 additional support products, and compiled hundreds of new ideas and fan requests.

Now it’s time for an upgrade…

Before we consider anything else, we want YOU as a gamer to say what want out of the rules and the setting. Whether it’s faster-than-faster-than-light travel, or blue gooey playable alien races, inquiring Minds want to know!

Have your say at the High Space Astronomical Survey